Efim Chorny begins his interview detailing his family heritage. His mother and her family were from Moldova and his father’s family were from Czechoslovakia. Efim grew up in Kishinev. As a child, Efim knew that his parents and grandparents spoke Yiddish, but living in the Soviet Union, he spoke mostly Russian. The first portion of the interview goes over in detail what it meant to be Jewish in Soviet Russia, as Efim describes the ways his grandparents and parents tried to observe holidays. Efim also details his childhood involvement in the Soviet youth group.
This opening footage carefully tracks the lines between Soviet Russian identity and Jewish identity, as Efim describes his experience with anti-Semitism and his careful language switching between Russian and Yiddish. Efim describes how his interest in Yiddish music developed with his mother and grandfather; figures that still permeate his song choice and performances to this day. The discussion of Yiddish music, leads Efim to recalls his time spent at college where he studied classical music in order to become a choir director. In 1992, having finished school, Efim began to travel through Western and Eastern Europe with his band. And it was only seven years ago, that Efim really began to shape his career around Yiddish music.
The second portion of the interview focuses heavily on Efim’s role as a performer and teacher. Efim describes the different places he has taught at, mainly festivals, and illuminates the important step of connecting with a student in order to teach them anything. Efim then describes some of his current projects. He tells a wonderful story about his work with Itzik Manger’s Magilla, work he did with Jenny Romaine.
The interview ends with Efim’s thoughts on the Yiddish cultural revival and the role of the performing artist in such a movement. When asked what young musicians considering using Yiddish should do, he answers simply: “Write, Sing!”
To learn more about the Wexler Oral History Project, visit: http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/tell-your-story
To cite this interview: Efim Chorny Oral History Interview, interviewed by Pauline Katz, Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project, KlezKanada, August 23, 2011. Video recording, http://archive.org/details/EfimChorny23august2011YiddishBookCenter ( [date accessed] )